The waters fringing South Western Australia always feel cold. Coming from the more temperate climate of Brisbane in the eastern state of Queensland – only the hottest days seem to dull the sharp chill of a dip in the Indian Ocean. It’s not that the cold keeps me away from the sea, quite the opposite in fact. There is something immensely refreshing about immersing yourself in chilly water that makes you feel clean, and acutely aware of your surroundings. One thing that is challenging though is overcoming the urge to flee once the icy water envelopes a toe. The solution is simple. Jump off something.
Jumping off things is pastime to which I have invested much time over the years. Sailing off a cliff or a rock and landing (hopefully without injury) somewhere else is thrilling regardless of the distance travelled. One of the best spots I’ve found in Western Australia to take a leap lies not far from Yallingup, just north of Margaret River. Canal rocks lies about a 10 minute drive from Yallingup (which is in itself well worth a visit) along the Smiths Beach Road.
As you descend towards the car park, you can see the rock protruding along the headland and in most conditions you’ll notice the swell dashing itself along the coastline sending spay spewing forth into the sky. All of this is spectacular, but the real draw of Canal Rocks for me is the playground created for bouldering. I have spent hours clambering and leaping between the pinnacles, or sitting on a peak and watching the ocean relentlessly smash along the reef that protects a bay and boat ramp perfect for launching all manner of vessel.
The rocks pile up to a peak that overlooks a channel which is a turmoil of white water and chaos. One could sit for hours watching the ebb and flow of the, not insignificant, currents that clearly created the spot. Further across there is a boardwalk that will take the less adventurous visitor further out onto the headland and over a second, smaller channel that reveals abundant marine life through the two metres of crystal clear water funnelling through into the protected bay. On one or two occasions I have seen rays as large as 2 metres skimming through the gap after being pummeled by the swell on the windward side of the rocks – certainly a shock for someone about to launch themselves into the fray.
Do not for a second assume that my willingness to leap into this water suggests that Canal Rocks is a safe bathing spot – as with many locations along the South West Coast – it is anything but! Despite that, the enjoyment gleaned from repeatedly leaping from the boardwalk and into the current is – for me – worth the inherent risk (depending on the weather and conditions – at times the danger is such that watching the water is more than enough excitement). As the water swells through and the channel is at its deepest you can leap off the railing and enjoy almost three metres of freefall into the icy cold water before riding the rapids to the other side of the bridge where you can choose between negotiating the jagged rocks through to the bay, and negotiating the jagged rocks as you climb back up to the boardwalk.
Canal Rocks is, in all conditions, worth a visit – however if you get there on a day that is calm enough to allow a swim, definitely brave the cold water and take a dip. While you are there, stop at the lookout over Smiths Beach and up the rugged coastline towards Yallingup for an iconic West Australian vista or watch the surfers challenging the sharky reefs in the area. Canal Rocks is a perfect start to a journey down the Caves Road which offers boutique breweries, vineyards, cave visits and all manner of other adventures. Future blogs will shed some light on a few more spots to visit in this area, but there is nothing better than exploring for yourself as some secret spots should never be shared publicly.